How to Hand Wash Laundry in a RV

A lot of the fancier RVs these day have a washer/dryer combo installed on them. This makes it fantastically easy to do your laundry while on a trip or living in a RV as long as you have full hookups. However, the travel trailer we live in doesn’t have one of those handy gadgets. So that leaves two options to getting your laundry done: laundromat or hand washing. Neither are my favorite, to be honest. However, we are blessed to live close to my parent’s for now, so when we go to church on Sunday, we bring all our laundry from the week and wash it. If we don’t finish our laundry before we head home, my mom will finish washing and drying the clothes and then put them in garbage bags for us to transfer home. I do all the folding at home before putting them away. 

There are those times when we’re sick and can’t make it on Sunday or we need something washed that day. Packing up three young children to go to the laundromat is a bit excessive in my opinion, especially since I would be there for hours. Even the RV parks that have a coin operated laundry on site do not appeal to me. In the 9+ months that we’ve been living full time in our RV, we’ve only been to a laundromat once and that was a couple weeks ago! (Our son peed all over our bed, so we needed the sheets washed before bed that night). 

So that leaves us with hand washing. The best way to do it is with a bathtub; unfortunately our RV only comes with a shower. So the next best thing is a 5 gallon bucket. I also have a mobile washer (it’s like a plastic toilet plunger with holes in it) that I bought years ago. That’s really all you need besides your dirty laundry and laundry soap.

Washing clothes by hand really isn’t that hard and is easily achieved in just a few steps. The only part that I find difficult is wringing out jeans or pants. You can buy a wringer for that, but they tend to be over $100 for a good quality one that won’t fall apart, so we haven’t gotten one yet. Anyways, here are the basic steps to do your laundry at home.

Step 1: Gather the clothes you need washed. How many pieces you can wash at a time is dependent on your container size. For a five gallon bucket, I usually can fit in a couple pairs of underwear, a couple shirts and a few pieces of my kids clothing. These go about halfway up my bucket. Any more than that and there wont be enough room to fully wash the clothes. Add clothes to your container.

Step 2: Fill bucket 3/4 full with water (I wash with cold water), making sure clothes get fully soaked. (I do all of this in shower, making spills easily go down the drain and easy to drain/fill the bucket.)

Step 3: Add a tiny amount of laundry soap. I use Trader Joe’s laundry soap which is highly concentrated and only put in a tablespoon of soap at the most. 

Step 4: Using mobile plunger, plunge clothes for 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if using bathtub or bigger container). Drain.

Step 5: Fill with water again.

Step 6: Plunge clothing again for 2 minutes. Drain.

Step 7: Pull out each item and wring out as much water as possible. Hang clothes to dry.

I hang the clothes in my bathroom, draped over the shower and cabinet doors. Our shower is a corner shower, so I can’t add a shower bar inside to hang our clothes on that. If your shower doesn’t have that problem, place a spring loaded shower/curtain rod high up in the shower and use hangers to hang the clothes for drying.

The picture above shows when we were living on private property and had permission to hang up a clothesline (really just rope tied around a few trees). All the campgrounds I have looked into and stayed at since then have not allowed this. So using the shower/bath is the perfect solution (also great for wintertime no matter where you live!).

So this is what we do for our clothes. While I haven’t done all our laundry by this method, it’s so useful for when we miss a week of laundry or need something washed right away. My aim is to be able to hand wash everything except our bedding, rather than relying on someone else or the laundromat for our laundry. In our setup, bedding is almost impossible, so while traveling, we will be using a laundromat for those items. 

How do you do your laundry in your RV?


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